DIT launches business advisory groups for trade talks – and recruits Australia's ex-PM Tony Abbott to key role

Abbott tipped to advise UK on post-Brexit trade
Photo: Chris Jackson/PA Archive/PA Images

The Department for International Trade has formed 11 advisory groups of business representatives as part of what it calls "major new business engagement drive designed to support the UK’s ambitious trade negotiations".

The announcement of the groups comes as it was reported that former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is set to co-lead a revamped Board of Trade to encourage investment into the UK and boosting exports.

The new advisory groups will represent the interests of industry, and their advice will help inform the government’s negotiating position in future trade deals, DIT said. They will cover agri-food; automotive, aerospace and marine; British manufacturing and consumer goods; investment; life sciences; tech and telecoms; chemicals; financial services; professional advisory services; transport services; and creative industries,

"This is about bringing business closer to the negotiating table and using their expertise to help secure the best possible deals that deliver jobs and growth across Britain. Talks with Japan, the US, Australia and New Zealand are entering their crucial latter stages, so it is only right that we step up engagement with vital industries to utilise their technical and strategic expertise," trade secretary Liz Truss said today.

"I want business in Britain to feel engaged and informed about the work we’re doing to build an independent trade policy and how it impacts them. As we recover from coronavirus, we want to strike deals that benefit every part of the country so we can build back better and deliver a fairer country for all."

Ex-Australian PM to get UK role

It has been reported today that Abbott will co-lead a revamped Board of Trade – the government body tasked with encouraging investment into the UK and boosting exports with Truss.

An unnamed official told the Sun the government was "delighted to have [Abbott] on board".

The right-wing former prime minister, who led Australia for two years before being ousted by his own party in 2015, was a vocal supporter of Brexit.

Last year he said the UK should not be too  worried about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, saying 55% of the country's trade was already with countries outside the EU

"Indeed, it’s not Britain’s trade with the EU that’s growing but the trade it does with the rest of the world on a no-deal basis; trade with people who want to buy British goods and British services because they’re worth buying, not because they’re in a political union," he said in a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank last year.

"Let me reassure anyone in Britain, anxious about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, that Australia does one hundred billion dollars’ worth of trade with the EU every single year, on the basis of no deal," Abbott said.

"Sure, we have some trade facilitation arrangements. These arise from the mutual self-interest that exists between any two entities that wish to do business with each other regardless of whether they are in some form of political union."

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